During the time I am away, I will reposting older entries from the icrucified blog. The following post was an entry from July 24, 2008
In recent posts we have discussed the command to “love” as Jesus loved; this defined love is “agape love.” I think a distinction has been made between this “agape-style” love which is commanded by Jesus and the alternative love “phileo-love” which is the best form of love humanity can give sans the power of God, the “Christ-in-you” life. With the established definition and the distinction made between the two primary loves mentioned in the New Testament writings, we asked the question whether or not it was possible to live in the capacity and exhibition of “agape-style” love. Scripture teaching from the words of Jesus (in the gospels) and subsequent teaching from the apostolic letters seems to not only affirm the possibility, but assumes the follower of Jesus will transcend the boundaries of phileo love and begin to love with God-love…agape love. In our last post we noted some of the challenges that are faced and the obstacles (self) that block the way of agape love; today we will examine what scripture teaches regarding “believers” who fail to love agape-style, so we ask; “Are there repercussions and consequences for failing to love agape-style?
As we start to answer our question, let us begin with a premise. I don’t think this premise is taken out of context, nor do I think it is an extrapolation “reaching for something” that is not there. We need to go back to a commandment from Jesus in the Gospel of John; “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) Four mentions of love; each mention is agape-style love. I think there are some inferences connected to someone professing to be a disciple (follower) of Jesus. Inference number one is fellowship. I don’t think discipleship happens in a void; there must be a certain amount and degree of fellowship between the “disciple-er” and “disciple-ee.” To remain a disciple, there is also the inference of obedience. I do not believe there could be continued relationship between disciple and “disciple-er” if there existed continued rebellion and disobedience. The very act of disobedience is an oxymoron in context with this style of relationship. Why are these clarifications and premises relevant?
If we fail to live and love AGAPE-style, yet claim to be a disciple of Jesus…we live a lie and exist in a realm of spiritual darkness. Truth does not exist in us, and regardless of what we want to believe, we do not truly know GOD; at least not the Triune God. Let us examine the letter from John (1 John).
“So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7)
“If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment– to love (agape) one another– is the same message you heard before.” (1 John 2:4-7)
These are very strong words directed toward the person still living in the clutches of “self” and making excuses for themselves to not live in the love of Jesus Christ. I believe this “self” is the single greatest challenge to “walking in the light” of Christ. As long as we “look out for number one,” we will fail to follow THE ONE. Our interests and what “seems right” to us are also condemned by John here:
“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.” (1 John 2:15-16)
Jesus was the author of John’s thinking; we can recall His words here:
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:25-26)
I read these verses of scripture and fail to find an alternative interpretation other than literal…I believe they are meant to speak to us exactly what has been written; regardless of the translation and/or cultural factors involved. The only way around the bluntness of these words is to claim they really do not mean what they say. From my reading perch, I am unable to justify that latter interpretation. I believe the verses really mean what they say; so where does that leave us? I believe the solution is salvation. I do not believe that we can be saved unless we are born again; “I tell you the truth; no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (Jesus – John 3:3). Unless we are “born again” we cannot know Jesus…we might know of him, but we do not know Him. It may seem as though I have embarked on a rabbit-chasing tangent; I assure you I have not. Our discussion involves our ability or inability to love as Christ loves. Our failure to love as Christ loves is directly related to failure to truly know Him. I realize how judgmental my words sound, but again…I’m drawing on scripture to help me make sense of discontinuity I see in the arena of the church today. We claim being filled with His Holy Spirit, we claim to know Jesus, we claim to “love” our brothers and sisters in Christ’s love, but the evidence does not support our claim. Jesus said, “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.” Consequently, we must take into consideration the works in the wake of our faith. Let us make a quick count of some issues currently besieging the church:
- Stress related physical ailments (depression, obesity, eating disorders)
- Moral relativism
- Broken marriages (moral failures / infidelity)
- Denominational bickering and church splits
- Drug, alcohol, and chemical dependencies
- Financial ruin (massive consumer debt)
- Gossip, slander, rumor-mongering
- Improper sleep/rest habits
“…A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.” What kind of tree produces the fruit in the above list? Understand that I am not referring to people who are awakening to the call of our Lord from their existing problems. I realize that we are all “in progress” at some stage or another in our journey. I am speaking directly with regard to those of us who have extended time along the path of our faith journey. The implication or inference is that we are not connected to the vine, and therefore incapable of producing fruit.
“No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)
Jesus, speaking these words, forces self-examination and the question; “am I (are we) connected in Him?” The “bad fruit” we bear (generally speaking) cannot come from a “good tree.” I think (if we are honest with ourselves) visible evidence supports the conclusion that many of us who profess Christian faith are really not connected to Him at all. I realize that sounds incredibly harsh, but it is not meant that way at all. Perhaps the scope of my observation is too narrow and I may not be portraying an accurate picture at all, but I really do not think that to be the case although I will concede the possibility.
I mentioned the purpose of this post was to explore the repercussions and consequences of the life apart from Agape Love. I know my thinking may have veered a little from time to time as I worked toward making a point. My motivation is concern for the body that calls themselves the “church.” Maybe my interpretation of scripture is bent toward the conservative camp, but even allowing a healthy dose of generosity in the translation of Jesus’ words I have to ask what exactly did Jesus mean when he said the way is narrow and few find it (Matthew 7:13-14). How many are few? How narrow is the gate or way? Why did Jesus make this point? Let’s say we disqualify this statement entirely from this particular narrative account. We still have another harsh statement to deal with that follows it. Jesus begins talking about good trees and bad trees again along with the “fruit” they bear. His discourse culminates with these words:
“So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” (Matthew 7:19-23)
What will turn this scenario around? How can we avert this??? We must die to self, destroying the propensity to live phileo love. Be reborn and imbued with the empowerment and capacity live in agape love. The rebirth connects us to the Vine and life-giving-agape of Jesus. See here:
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels– a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.” (John 12:24-26)
- John 15
- 1 John 3
What is my summary for this post and meditation? Fruit for God is directly proportional to agape love and agape love is only possible to live if we die to self and become reborn in Him (Christ Jesus). The evidence of that rebirth is manifest visibly with inward and outward acts of love (see the Letter of James). Jesus exhorted us to examine the fruit born from the trees in His garden…we are they. What fruit do I bear? Does He know me? The consequence and repercussion of a “loveless” (agape) life is separation from Him. We are not His if we do not love as He loves. We have no excuses. We cannot claim human frailness; it will not fly as a possibility. God proclaims His power is more than enough to overcome any challenge that stands in our way in His mission. The only destroyer of our hope is us…the sin of self is our saboteur.
Next: We love (agape) because Christ is IN us…We do not love (agape) because He is NOT in us.